50 percent of adults want to lose or maintain their weight, while almost 80 percent of this group try to do it without any outside assistance. It’s difficult to even try to lose weight, let alone try to find the best program that suits your needs and lifestyle.
Intermittent Fasting seems to be the latest craze on the dieting scene. There are, however, many opinions with a plethora of conflicting conclusions as to its safety and effectiveness.
Intermittent Fasting (IF), also known as time-restricted eating, is in essence, just an eating timetable or weight management program. Food is consumed on a regular schedule throughout the day, switching over to a fasting regimen commencing in the mid-evening hours. Typically diet focus on what foods to consume, whereas IF is about when you consume the food.
There are a variety of ways to implement intermittent fasting into your daily life. And as with any change in diets, be sure to consult with your health professional prior starting an IF or any dieting plan.
The 3 Approaches to Intermittent Fasting:
- Daily-16:8 Fasting: This IF regimen is the most common and probably the easiest to stick with for the long term. Your food intake is restricted to eight hours a day, usually between 12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and then fasting from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. through to the next day.
- 12:12 Time-Restricted Fasting: With this approach, the fasting time is a bit less than the 16/8 approach because the eating time is extended. For example, unrestricted eating times range from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. with no food consumption from 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. through to the next day.
- 5:2 Modified Fasting: This IF approach spans over a seven-day period with two of the days having a low-calorie consumption. And depending on your body’s ability to only consume limited calories for two out of the seven days, will depend on whether you will be able to follow the 5:2 approach. Days one and five consist of an intake of only 500-600 calories, while the remaining five days allow for unrestricted eating—this does not mean it’s a free-for-all with your food consumption. Eating too many carbs, fats, and sugars will sabotage your efforts. This a time to eat smart without having to track your calorie intake.
Because there are several ways to implement this practice, what may work for one person may be detrimental to the health of another. However, proponents of intermittent fasting claim that this type of dieting helps them to lose and maintain weight, burn more calories, elevate their metabolic rate, increase cognitive ability and memory, and improve their cholesterol levels. On the flip side, however, there tends to be a higher dropout rate compared to other fad-type diets, a potential for increased binge eating, as well as an obsession with food.
Unfortunately, there has been no widespread agreement across the scientific community as to the effectiveness and safety of intermittent fasting. What seems to have been agreed on thus far is that any reduction in calories, improved eating habits, and an increase in exercise will all create positive health benefits.
The New York Times recently released an article on the results of an in-depth one-year study of intermittent fasting. The study’s participants consumed low-calorie diets for an eight-hour span, (8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) or any calories consumed at the same time every day. The conclusion was that the benefits of time-restricted eating did not provide any greater benefit than just reducing one’s daily caloric intake. There have been many studies for time-restricted eating, but most were smaller in scope, had a shorter timeline, and no control groups were used.
Dr. Courtney Peterson, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who studies time-restricted eating states, “We just need to do larger studies.” She also believes that intermittent fasting is here for the foreseeable future. To further back up this point, Dr. Ethan Weiss, a diet researcher at the University of California, San Francisco asserts that “Among patients with obesity, a regimen of time-restricted eating was not more beneficial with regard to reduction in body weight, body fat, or metabolic risk factors than daily calorie restriction.”
Will Intermittent Fasting Work for You?
If you are a night owl and still get up early, intermittent fasting can be difficult—the longer you stay awake, the more likely you are to be a late-night snacker. This can increase your risk of weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart problems, among other health issues.
Women and Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting may have some benefits, but it could do more harm than good for women. Women who have diabetes, eating disorders, who are pregnant or breastfeeding should abstain from an intermittent fasting regimen.
Concerns about intermittent fasting for women who are in their reproductive years have also been noted. Because fasting can potentially lead to undereating, a significant reduction in caloric intake may interrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle, leading to infertility. Jillian Greaves M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N., an Integrative Functional Dietitian at Prevention Pantry Nutrition states, “Intermittent fasting itself is a stressor on the body, with everyday life already filled with chronic emotional, physiological, and environmental stressors, IF might do more harm than good. Fasting increases cortisol, leading to blood sugar dysregulation, increased insulin resistance, lean muscle loss, fatigue, and disruptions to thyroid function over time.“
There is, however, substantial support from men’s health experts with regards to intermittent fasting for men. There are protocols recommended for men if they want to succeed with a time -restricted eating regimen. They include:
- Be consistent
- Eat only healthy foods; consume hearty amounts of vegetables, lean proteins, and limit unhealthy carbohydrates.
- Many nutrition experts prefer the Mediterranean diet as an overall healthy diet regardless of whether you are intermittent fasting or not.
- Eating foods such as eggs, fish, nuts, and apples will help to satiate your appetite and limit cravings.
- When the fasting period ends, put protein first on your list to consume; it will extend your body’s ability to stay in fat-burning mode.
Extended periods of fasting ranging from twenty-four to seventy-two hours is never recommended. It can be very dangerous, causing dehydration which can lead to organ failure or other types of serious health issues. As with any diet regimen, staying hydrated is most important.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to dieting. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone and it is critical to do your research and consult with your health professional to be sure it’s a safe diet for you.